Philippines President Duterte's advance security team bombed in volatile region

Soldiers carry on a stretcher a wounded member of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's presidential security group who was airlifted at an army camp in Cagayan de Oro after being hit in a roadside bomb attack in Lanao del Sur, Philippines November 29, 2016. © Armed Forces of the Philippines
At least seven members of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s security team were injured in a roadside bombing by suspected Muslim militants. The attack comes ahead of Duterte’s visit to an area of intense battles between Islamists and government troops.

An explosive device planted along the road detonated when the presidential convoy headed to Marawi, the capital of Lanao del Sur province on the island of Mindanao, the second-largest island of the Philippines.

The convoy reportedly included seven members of the Presidential Security Group, two soldiers and Duterte’s media team, according to media reports.

“The truck carrying the president's advance security detail was hit by an improvised explosive device,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said, as cited by Reuters. “There was no firefight.”

“The convoy was ambushed using an IED while traversing from Iligan City to Marawi City,” Armed Forces spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said.

The injured men were immediately airlifted to safety. Members of the president's official media team were also in the convoy, but were unharmed.

Lorenzana said that he advised Duterte to cancel his visit to Marawi, scheduled for Wednesday, as the situation is “still not under control.”

The president chose to ignore the advice.

“The advice was to postpone. I said no, I will go there. And if possible, take the same route,” Duterte said, as cited by Reuters. “Maybe we can have a little gunfight here, gunfight there.”

Philstar newspaper cited Padilla as saying the attack might have been staged by Maute, an Islamist group which pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

On Monday, Philippines police found a homemade bomb in a trash bin near the US embassy in Manila. According to National Police Chief Ronald dela Rosa, the Maute group may have been behind the attack. Explosives experts successfully conducted a controlled detonation of the bomb.

Earlier the Philippines military launched raids against Maute members in the mainly-Muslim rural town of Butig, some 800km from Manila and just 50km from Marawi, where Duterte is heading on Wednesday. According to the military, some 35 militants were killed in the operation.

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Maute was also linked to the bombing in Davao in September this year. That attack claimed 15 lives with dozens more injured.